John’s message for believers

Adam Harbinson
Adam Harbinson

Perhaps the darkest and most painful period of my life turned out to be the most productive and life-changing after all. Some might say God sent the darkness and the pain for that purpose, but I don’t for a minute think that God is like that. However, looking back over the decades, I can see that he brought new life out of death. I guess that’s what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. Only if it dies does it produce fruit.’

Without boring you with needless detail, I can tell you that it was a desolate time, a time when all the solid pillars I had grown up with and built my life on crumbled beneath my feet. But it was a time when in great earnestness I began to search for something, some foundation on which I could rebuild my shattered life. To say that I began to devour my Bible does not tell the whole story. The fact is that I began to read it as I would read tomorrow morning’s newspaper. My pain and utter disappointment had freed me from the comfortable stereotypical slots into which my belief systems had neatly fitted, and it was against this backdrop that I made some remarkable discoveries that have informed my new-born world view.

The first one to blow my socks off was the very well-known text in the Book of The Revelation 3:20, ‘Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.’

In the little mission halls I frequented as a boy, I had been taught that the context was one in which Jesus was standing outside the ‘heart’s door’ of the unbeliever, begging admittance. ‘Let me come in or your soul will be lost!’

Indeed I remember being shown a copy of the famous painting by Warner Sallman (1892-1968) depicting ‘Christ at the Heart’s Door’ – a deeply moving piece of art, if fundamentally flawed theologically, as was the teaching that Jesus was trying to communicate with those who did not know him.

Actually, he was indeed trying to do just that, but they were not unbelievers. Read the text and you too will find that behind that door, firmly locked against all intruders, was a gathering of religious people who, it seems, had excluded the Christ from their community and from their lives.

Why would a group of people who call themselves by his name distance themselves from him? Because in his pure and un-sanitised form he was, and remains, wild and unpredictable, decent people found him uncomfortable to be around. He ate and drank with social outcasts, the type of people you and I step around were happy to be in his company, and it was mutual.

Another question: why retell the story in a way that distorts truth? Warner Sallman must have read the story how in a vision, John, the writer of the book, was told to write a letter to the church at Laodicea and say, ‘‘Look! I am standing here knocking at your door. Is there any chance you might let me come in? Does anybody know who I am?’

Tell me what you think: – and thanks for your many emails.